Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Loneliness and Speaking with Spirits

Cousin, after years of treading a spiritual path, and working to condition myself such that I was able to be consciously aware of the sacred and incomprehensible things, I have reached a point that I feel that I can speak of a certain mystery that intrigues both of us.

I get the idea that most human beings feel quite alone. Not always alone in the sense of lacking human contact, but alone in a broader spiritual sense. Where are the "spirits" of the natural world, the Gods, the unseen beings that so many sacred stories and myths talk about? The ancient humans don't appear to have been alone.

Aside from living in close, intimate harmony with one another, within family groups, their stories present us with adventures alongside animals that walk and talk like humans: the master-spirits of those animals, perhaps. Gods descend to marry human brides; the dangerous powers rear their heads and speak and act- the reaches of extra-sensory reality seem to have been closer, in those days.

You can't doubt the spiritual aspect of human life when the spirit world is walking and talking alongside you. Where have these powers gone? Naturally, I'll tell you they haven't gone anywhere; I can say that we have forgotten much about experiencing in that special way that gives us access to them- but such a statement can be unsatisfying. Dreams and visions are still real, and nearly everyone has had some hints of those- but we have enough reasons now to doubt our dreams and visions. Their sanctity has been greatly diminished because of the doubters and the materialists.

Certainly we have a destiny in this world, a purpose for living, a reason. This is my belief. Aside from the aid one can gain in discovering their path through life, there is another good reason to reach out to the Unseen and talk to the powers there: it will cure the human sense of loneliness- spiritual loneliness, which makes us mad in many ways. When we can't see the tree next to our window as a non-human person, all we are left with is some bark and leaves. When we can't see the river as a non-human person, we are left with some water.

Bark, leaves, and water don't make good conversation partners. They don't cry out to us to be respectful and treat the world well- if they did, we might have a hard time dumping waste into our water, or destroying our trees in our blind, money-motivated, and imprudent manner. A vegetarian once told me that "carrots didn't scream as loud as cows", as a justification for why she felt better killing plants for her food, rather than animals.

Even though I think she was wrong to prefer one sort of killing over another (plants are still living beings; they are non-human persons, sacrifice is sacrifice, and death is death) I think this principle applies to spiritual ecology and spiritual life as well. If we could speak to the unseen powers, or hear them and sense them, we would be encouraged through whatever shreds of decency we have left in us to live more harmonious lives with them- and you cannot separate them from this sacred, natural world.

If we didn't feel so alone in the forest- if we felt the reality of our situation- we would walk through the trees just as we walk through a human neighborhood, with a mind to respect and wary of offending others; with a sense of familiarity and a sense of community. We would be aware of how surrounded we are by other persons, persons who enjoy being well-treated and respected just like we do.

Our sense of "human aloneness" can be broken many ways; it must be broken, or we will go crazy (perhaps I should say "more crazy") and finish destroying ourselves. Our slow species suicide has already begun; maybe something I'll say here can reverse the trend, at least in the minds of individuals.

I would like to present a procedural framework for contacting spirits- for having a conscious experience of contact with non-human persons. There are countless ways and methods for this activity, born in every historical human culture; even in non-animistic Western christian culture, prayer and meditation is suggested for having a conscious experience of contact with God. But this is something very different.

This is a five-step procedure for contacting non-human persons of a more immediate variety; the kind that live unseen right next to you, pretty much wherever you are. I am speaking of the non-human persons of trees and stones, of rivers, the land itself, of springs or mountains, or hills. This would work for the spirits of animals as well, though it might be better to begin with the spiritual presences associated with things that don't fly or run quite so much- like trees or rivers.

This procedure was correlated by me from many experiences of my own, but it was the spirit of the river near me that taught it to me in its final form. There are understandings here that are purely sacred, and strong.

The five steps are as follows, along with a short explication for each:

1. Gaining proximity to a phenomenon related to the non-human person you wish to engage in direct communication with

2. Cultivating a sense of the non-humanness of this spirit or person

3. Cultivating a respectful attitude and heart towards this spirit or person

4. Formally gaining the attention of the spirit or person

5. Going into a passive mode of openness.

Gaining proximity

Not all non-human persons have a perceptual "outward form" associated with them- one good example would be the spirit of the wind. Wind is invisible, but when outdoors, one is nearly always in contact with the wind in some way- one is in proximity- so long as the wind is blowing that day, wherever you are. This procedure is more favorably and easily used with the powers associated with spirits that can be experienced in an easy way- trees, mountains, bodies of water, and the like.

Going to the tree, river, hill or mountain (and one really need only be at least in sight of it, though the closer one gets, the better) is the first step in this process. The "journey" to the place, no matter how short or long, is actually a powerful and venerable part of this process. One goes to this power's tangible presence with a reverential attitude. Before the approach to the place, one should wash oneself into purity, with hot water, steam, ocean or spring water, or some other wash, and/or smudge with a sacred herb that has the force of purification assigned to it by tradition.

Cultivating a sense for non-humanness

This portion of the procedure is one of the most neglected aspects of spiritual communion that I have encountered- and my personal realization of it represented quite a leap and evolution of my own ability to complete this work.

When we are attempting to speak with non-human powers, we forget often that they are, in fact, not human. This sounds trite, but from the perspective of a human mind and heart, it is a crucial fact. We aren't used to communicating intellectually and consciously with entities that aren't humans, that don't look and think like us, and use our language. We can communicate in various ways with our animal friends or pets, but in general, the vast majority of our conscious communication is with other people.

This fact conditions us to think of "real" communication only in human terms. It makes us consider the theoretical existence of any intelligent non-human power only in human terms- humans get angry; so what could anger a spirit? Humans have preferences- what does a spirit prefer? Humans look lustfully upon other humans- do spirits lust after the same things?

Sacred stories of spirits interacting with humans are also framed in human terms, though sometimes, the more powerful the story, the stranger you'll find spirits acting- the more ambiguous, the more mysterious.

Those who desire communication with spirits must focus themselves intently on the fact that these non-human persons are, in fact, not human; they have to let human-like preconceptions about the spirit go and open themselves to what it really means and feels to approach what is (from our perception) an alien being. I don't mean "alien" in the sense of being from another planet; I mean alien to our human thinking, motivations, and sensibilities- and the more powerful the spirit, the more this will be true.

Some things will always unite us to our brothers and sisters in the non-human range of life; that sacred stories present spirits with sometimes human-seeming motivations is not a mistake or a superstitious limitation. But to imagine the unseen powers as simply "humans writ immortal and insubstantial" is an extreme error. It limits the possibilities that a spirit-seer must remain open to.

My procedure is to look within, and sense a large distance between me and the spiritual power, and, distant from me, is the power itself, which I never visualize. I only know that it is there- after all, I can "feel" it by virtue of being near the physical phenomenon that I believe it is associated with- and I let it be a non-human, mysterious thing. I concentrate on the strangeness of non-human persons, how they must feel at least a bit strange or even disturbing from the human perspective, owing to our limitations as human beings. We see the world as we are- that is an unavoidable truth. Now, at this step in the procedure, we can break with that habit just a bit and let the powers out there be what they are.

Too many people go out to find "spirits" and forget that "us going to them" is an approach that is only half complete. One must realize that spiritual powers will respond to those they wish to respond to, and that they "come to us", as well. You can go as far as you like and try many things, but without certain key perspectives and ingredients in place, spirits aren't likely to just "come to you", thus making the contact whole.

You will discover that meditating on the strangeness of non-human persons, their mystery, and letting your human-shaped notions about them fall away, opens you up immediately to subtle levels of possibility for communication that you may never have engaged. The strangeness of non-human persons doesn't mean that they are not intimately connected to us, on the deepest levels; it does not mean that they are hostile, though some can be dangerous.

Cultivating a sense of respect

Once you have accomplished the first two stances of this procedure, this central third step may be the most important. One must make it clear, on the heart level, that one comes in a sense of total solidarity and respect for the spirit one wishes a communion with. You make this clear by filling the heart with respect and awe, a sort of admiration born in the fact that your hoped-for communication partner is another living being like yourself, but having a life-experience very much unlike you, and its life-experience is no less crucial than your own.

The more beings and persons that exist, and the more we can integrate consciously into our network of relationships, the more sacred power we will personally collect and manifest, and the closer we will come to our own destinies- for a part of every destiny is learning to live in harmony with all powers.

A note of caution here is, of course, required: there are powers who spend their existence being harmful to other living beings, including humans. This procedure really isn't for communing with them, nor should a communion really be an issue for them- they are best respected for their sacred necessity, but avoided or left alone, and at most, sealed out of near proximity to human minds and dwelling places.

Offering your heart in respect to the spiritual power that you are communicating with is the first of the two things you will do to gain its direct attention. This activity need not be complicated; if one has the necessary poetry in their heart for the sacred powers, it won't be hard to feel respect and awe and even veneration- the strong sense of sacred worth- for the spirits as a whole, and the spirit whose communion you wish.

Then, you let this feeling extend from your chest and middle-body to the direction of the physical, tangible phenomenon whose proximity you went into.

Formally gaining attention

At this point, one must make an outward demonstration of sound and offering to gain the attention of the spirit. Drums and rattles are the best, but the addition of burning sweet grass or other fragrant herbs makes a far more powerful demonstration.

Without drums or rattles (or alongside them) one may softly whistle, play some instrument, or sing. The real point and power here is in knowing that you are making these offerings of sound and herbs with the intent of gaining the spirit's attention.

At this stage, one may wish to speak ones intentions for the conversation or communion. One may speak them in the heart, but I find that they are more effective if they are spoken aloud on some level.

Going into a passive state of openness

The final phase of this procedure is the setting of the stage upon which this sacred drama can finally be consummated. You, as a human being, have gone as far as you can "towards" the spirit- coming, purified, into the presence of some item or phenomenon associated with it, losing ones' preconceived notions of it, allowing it to be the mystery that at heart, it truly is; emanating respect and kinship towards it, and calling it formally and traditionally. Now, if the contact is going to occur, it will be because the mysterious entity comes to you- and even if it did, if you are not passively open to its approach, you will not encounter it on any level.

At this point, the chest and middle-body must be opened to the power, and one must spiritually "watch" for the approach of the being. Watching in this way doesn't mean looking, though one may also look, if they like. It means being in touch with the "chest" sight, and with how one feels. One must not make an attempt to strain to "feel" this approach; one becomes passive, open to whatever arises. The spirit can come in many ways- as an animal, even; it can manifest as winds or sounds, as a vision or a feeling. The "feeling" of the presence of the spiritual power is normally one of the most profound aspects of this experience. But it can go much deeper.

An internal conversation can begin in some cases; these are more than just the classic "I'm talking to myself" quandaries; this natural and mystical internal conversation takes place as readily and actually as your communion with my words here on this paper- an "outside source" of intelligence and personhood speaks to you, shaping feelings and knowledges in yourself of its lore, responses, or intentions. Another "layer of sight" may open up near you or in you, "strong eyes" opening to show you something of the spirit in an inner-sight. Only those who have gained such an experience can understand what I am trying to say.

The greatest problem with these sorts of experiences is the degree to which our hearts can deceive our heads. If we wish for spiritual contact very fondly, we put ourselves in danger of "making it up"- and fooling ourselves. But real openness to spiritual contact only comes when we accord spirits the final and greatest respect we can give them: the option not to communicate with you. You cannot assay this procedure if you are obsessed, singlemindedly, with talking to spirits. You must go into it with the attitude that "if it happens, good, if not, fine. All is well either way."

If you know that you will be disappointed at failing to gain a communication-experience, do not try this procedure. If you intend to use this procedure as part of a vision-seeking, you must extend this attitude all the more. There is nothing wrong with working hard and trying multiple times, but you cannot let yourself slip into the state of obsession with result. This would not be respectful, and it will lead to self-deceit.

For those who are seeking a vision, this procedure can be used in conjunction with sleep- once the spirit is called, going "open" and going to sleep can allow a stage for a dream-vision to arise from the power. One must be open to any and all visions that arise in sleep, and have no expectation of outcome.

It is no accident that this procedure for speaking to non-human persons also outlines a very wise way of approaching and communicating with human persons as well: to let our preconceived notions of other humans fall by the wayside, to be respectful to them and cultivate a sense of our kinship, and to not be obsessed with the outcomes of our relationships with others- allowing them to be who they are. These stances in communication can help things between people immensely.

1 comment:

puny human said...

Exceptionally well thought and written.